Sunday, 28 February 2010


3 Locks, 8.83 miles, 1 Tunnel. Now moored at the Black Country Museum.

With all 3 tanks,water, waste and diesel, requiring attention it was time to move. With today being the best option as far as the long range weather forecast was concerned we set off just after 9 am. First port of call was the water point at Cambrian wharf where I also took advantage of the shower. Next stop was Sherbourne Wharf on the Oozell Loop to empty one tank and fill the other with 135 litre’s of diesel. Derek and Carrie on Uccello gave us a half hour head start then followed on behind.

Dudley 007 Sherbourne Wharf on the Oozell Loop in Birmingham.Dudley 012 Hi Paul, its looking good at its home mooring.

Once both boats had been sorted we then headed North. Travelling through the old industrial area’s was quite amazing to see the many old arm’s leading to derelict factories. It gave a different perspective to what the canal industry must have been like in it’s hay day. We hadn’t planned on travelling quite so far but we couldn’t find any decent moorings so we carried on to our present position. We will probably move during the week and return here next week-end when family plan a visit on both boats.

Dudley 016One of the many dis-used arms along the New main Line. There would have been a factory or wharf at the other end.Dudley 018  Toll Island's in the centre of the canal. There were several of these.Dudley 023 One of many attractive bridges crossing the New main Line. Another toll island fills the canal.Dudley 029 Spon Lane bridge.

After a great deal of thought we have come to the conclusion that we may be selling Gypsy Rover sooner than planned so we will be getting her valued very soon. Once we have a better idea on price we will be advertising the sale properly. Just keeping our options open.

Dudley 031 M5 bridges looms over everything.Dudley 032 Photo taken from the other side of the same bridge showing bridge supports in the centre of the canal.

2105 locks, 4111.44 miles, 80 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 26 February 2010

Decisions, decisions!

Today we headed off to the NEC Birmingham where the Boat & Caravan show was being held. We also met John and Elizabeth from Nb Sarah Louise at the show as we are both in the same predicament as to what motorhome to buy and ship back to NZ when we sell our boats some time soon.

The first port of call was the Autotrail stand where we had some long discussions with Steve from Freeborn Motorhomes. As our first choice of a Cheyenne 840s is no longer available new he suggested the new Frontier Savannah which is 4 foot shorter model. After a thorough going over we moved on to find the Fifth Wheel Company who produce a very nice Fifth wheeler which is a sort of cross between a caravan and a motorhome. We were very impressed with their product but we can see a problem with having to also buy a Nissan Nirvara to tow the van. The whole unit is probably going to be outside our budget. Pity!

After a busy afternoon checking out other alternatives and some long discussions with Darren of Premier Motorhomes we headed back to the Autotrail stand for a second look and more talks with Steve. Eventually security turned up to kick us out as the show was closing at 6pm. We had only been there since the doors opened at 10am so where had the day gone?

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The City of 1001 Trades!

As Birmingham was formerly known. For the last 2 days I have been confined to barracks nursing a very sore foot so Dot has been out and about with Derek and Carrie visiting the Jewellery Quarter, Waterstone Lane Cemetery and the markets. I had found a local doctor and acquired a prescription painkiller but the side effects were nearly as bad as the sore foot so today has been spent resting and snoozing until the side effects subsided.

Birmingham 107The Catacombs at Warstone Lane Cemetery Birmingham.  These were used as Air Raid Shelters during the second world war for displaced persons also. Birmingham 111 Jewellery Quarter Birmingham. More jewellers in one place than you could ever imagine.Birmingham 114 Footpath plaque, Jewellery Quarter Birmingham.Birmingham 118 Birmingham's Brummie the Bull in the Bullring.  Would you believe that despite it being the symbol of Birmingham I was unable to find a gold charm to remember Birmingham.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Delving into History.

Birmingham 037 Birmingham's Museum and Art Gallery.

After a quiet week-end it was back to the tourist trail with a visit to the City Museum and Art Gallery. It was certainly a day to be inside with temperatures not much more than 3 or 4 0C. On the way to the museum we spotted a rather large crane (same sized crane that launched Gypsy Rover) by the Big Wheel. We suspected that the wheel was going to be dismantled which proved correct when we passed by some 3 hours later. We have searched the website to see if we could find out where it is heading to next but no such luck.

Birmingham 084 The entrance to Birmingham's Museum and Art Gallery. All done in marble.

At the museum the first thing to impress us was the stone marble foyer and staircase. Another surprise was that “The Bullring” wasn’t some new American style mall because it has been in existence for about 400 years. Of course it has received many make over's and rebuilds in this time but it’s what Birmingham is built on. The name of Birmingham came from a rich land owner aptly named Peter De Birmingham who started a market in his own grounds. Once it was established he started another market which was to become Birmingham.

Birmingham 090 One of the galleries in Birmingham's Museum and Art Gallery.

Listening to some of the live stories about “The Bullring” was very enlightening. A slaughterman/butcher was telling the tale of the rats that frequented the cattle pens. First thing in the morning the slaughterman would go into the pens and switch on the lights to find the cattle lying down with rats sleeping on their backs to keep warm. Once the lights went on they scattered as fast as their little legs would carry them but the slaughtermen would sometimes go in with air rifles to shoot them. Thankfully the slaughter house was closed in 1976 and the rats went with it.

Birmingham 082 Birmingham Town Hall modelled on the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum.

In the Buddha Gallery there is the largest copper Buddha in the world.  The Sultanganj Buddha has been in the museum since 1867.  It is over 500 years old was discovered buried by an engineer building the railway. He initially uncovered a foot and then organised it’s complete exhumation. The story goes that it was on a stone plinth but when invaders attacked the area the monks dug a pit and tipped the Buddha into the pit and then buried it. The plinth was buried in a similar fashion but in the opposite direction to protect the location of the Buddha should it be discovered. The monks never returned to restore the Buddha so it lay undiscovered all that time. A city benefactor then paid to have it shipped to Birmingham where it now resides.

Birmingham 104 Gypsy Rover outside the NIA Birmingham.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

What a to do?

0 Locks, 1 Mile. Now moored in front of the NIA.

Birmingham 028The roof of Gypsy Rover shows the depth of the snow still at midday.

We arose to find ourselves well and truly covered in snow again this morning, close on 2” of the stuff. As we have been on our present moorings for 48 hours our plan was to move up to the Black Country Museum for a few days, returning on Tuesday. Looking at the long range forecasts we came to the conclusion that we could find ourselves iced in once more making it difficult for us to visit the Boat and Caravan show at the NEC on Thursday. 

Birmingham 026 Old Turns Junction in the centre of Birmingham.

Cambrian Wharf are supposedly 14 day moorings so we walked around there to see what moorings were available. We found that there were 4 empty berths so we headed back to the boat with the intention of moving there. Before actually going onto the moorings we stopped at the water point where we spoke to another boater who suggested that we should talk to Rachel in the BW office. Dot did this and came back with the news that BW  were not considering Continuous Cruisers again because in actual fact there was only 1 mooring available on Cambrian Wharf whereas the others had been rented out as Winter moorings. As we required 2 moorings for Uccello and ourselves Rachel suggested we return to our original mooring and she would advise the BW Patrol Officer that we are being given dispensation to overstay the mooring restrictions.

Birmingham 032Gas Street Basin Birmingham.

We decided to move to the other side where we are now getting a little sunshine.  The moorings on the other side are in the shadow of the modern apartments and still covered in snow this evening, whereas at the moment we are clear.  The temperature tonight is forecast to drop to –50C so we will see if the canal freezes again.

Birmingham 033 Part of Birmingham's waterfront.

2102 locks, 4102.61 miles, 79 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 19 February 2010

Our mooring in Birmingham

Birmingham 019 With the National Indoor Arena behind I should have taken this photo at 10pm last night, it looked beautiful with much more snow.

Checking out Brum!

With a forecast of 4” of snow this afternoon we thought it wise to head out this morning. Nothing exciting to start with, just a visit to Tesco Edgbaston. It was a large store but the layout was anything but standard compared to other Tesco store’s we have visited, we have never seen such a disjointed shop layout.

Birmingham 017Bungy jumping in the Bull Ring

This afternoon the weather was still holding out so we headed into the city to get our bearings for future visits. We were basically looking to find the New Street Station and the quickest way to get there. In doing so we had a quick look around the Palisades and Bullring shopping complex’s. We had no sooner returned to the boat when the snow arrived and it has been snowing solidly for a couple of hours now. The temperature has also tumbled to a chilly -0.20C and its still only 6.30pm, time to crank up the heating.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Hello Birmingham.

0 Locks, 4.31 Miles. 1 Tunnel, 1 lift bridge, Now moored opposite the NIA.

Birmingham 003 Temporary lift bridge over the canal for railway contractors to access the railway embankment on the left.

After a very pleasant 2 days at Bournville it was time to head on into the city. It was an interesting trip with contractors reducing the width of the canal at Selly Oak and operating a lift bridge to enable their wheeled vehicles access on both sides of the canal. They had found a very good use for old tyres by strapping them together in big bundles. When the time was right they just dropped them into the canal and placed very large planks across the top to be able to drive their heavy tracked vehicles across the canal. They then removed them to re-open the canal, very clever.

Birmingham 006This railway embankment wall would have been a major feat when originally built over 100 years ago.

A bit further up the cut we found a BW boat with workers busy trimming overhanging vegetation along the non towpath side. Just before The Mailbox we pulled into the facilities block for water.While waiting, the 2 Derek’s spent their time watching contractors taking scaffolding down that had been at least 8 storey’s high. The workers had a great system going and soon had a complete floor level dismantled and were well into the next level by the time we left.

Birmingham 011 Statue at Holiday Wharf Birmingham.

Unfortunately moorings are unavailable at the Mailbox due to building contractors having most of the basin closed off. Gas St basin appeared full so we carried on just past the entrance to Oozell’s Loop and the Sea Life Aquarium, mooring opposite the N.I.A. Later we wandered back to Brindley Place on the Oozell’s loop where we knew John and Fiona on Epiphany were moored. After a couple of hours of catching up on all the gossip and a coffee it was time to find the Sainsbury’s Metro Supermarket for a few supplies before settling in for the night.

Birmingham 015Our rather damp arrival in Birmingham after snow flurries and then sleet.

With 5-10cm snow forecast for tomorrow we won’t be moving for a day or so, so in the meantime there’s time to explore this fascinating city.

2102 locks, 4101.61 miles, 79 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Cadbury (Kraft) World.

Bournville 061A glass and a half. That's the secret of Cadbury's chocolate.

Today we had a 9am appointment at Cadbury World so it was an early start to allow ourselves sufficient time to walk there. Even arriving at 8.45 there was a queue at the door. Admittedly a lot of the tour is for kid’s but the historical and manufacturing side of the tour were very interesting. Passing through the section where you can see part of the factory proper there was nothing happening except some maintenance and cleaning after a production run.

Bournville 051 The original Office block.

In the souvenir shop there were chocolate bars we had never seen before but Dot was disappointed that her favourite Picnic bar wasn’t available, instead she had to make do with some Flake and White chocolate. Still I did find a favourite of mine, the Fry’s Peppermint Cream which we have only found in one shop after 3 years searching. We also purchased a few trinkets for gifts to take back to NZ.

Bournville 059 Where John Cadbury dreams began.

Back at the boat we found Derek and Carrie in conversation with Graham and Jill from Nb Matilda Rose who had just arrived from Gas St Basin. Unfortunately they couldn’t stay as they have to push on towards Lapworth with their grandson after a short visit.

Bournville 067Derek chatting with Graham and Jill from Matilda Rose.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Selly Manor Bournville

Bournville 039

Selly Manor one of Birmingham's oldest buildings was saved from demolition by George Cadbury and re erected on the current site in Bournville in 1917 and opened to the public.


Bournville 047Hmmm Chocolate

This morning we headed into Stirchley to find a medical centre so that I could get some more tablets for my Gout. When we found the medical centre it had been closed and converted to a Swine Flu centre. We then found the local Pharmacy for advice and finished up getting a taxi to the Selly Oak Walk In Centre where we were in and out in about 20 minutes complete with prescription and directions to another Pharmacy. That’s what I call service. As I had probably walked far enough on my very sore foot we got another taxi back to the boat.

Bournville 048 Cadbury's (Kraft) enormous factory.

This afternoon I put my feet up for a rest and Dot walked up to Cadbury’s World to get the lay of the land and take some photo’s.

Bournville 041The name say's it all.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Next Stop Cadbury World.

10.96 miles, 0 Locks, 1 Tunnel, 1 Lift bridge. Now moored at Bournville

With the doom and gloom of the weather forecast we were pleasantly surprised with a beautiful sunny day. This stayed with us for most of the day only clouding over by the time we reached King’s Norton Junction. The canal was quite busy with a convoy of 4 boats, us included, heading North and a couple of South bound boats.

Bournville 007 The white steps in the centre are actually a waterfall in this development at Dickens Heath.

At the Shirley Lift bridge I pulled in to drop Dot off to operate the bridge when I picked up a hunk of synthetic sacking material. I struggled through the bridge to the mooring point and then had to venture down the weed hatch. Luckily the material came away fairly easily so I wasn’t submerged in freezing cold water for too long. Later at bridge 5 we pulled in to top up the water tanks as this is the last water point until we reach Birmingham. Luckily there are 4 taps here as there were 5 boats wanting to fill up, so there wasn’t too much of a delay.

Bournville 014 Bridge 8, Shirley Draw Bridge on the North Stratford Canal. Pilings restrict passage to single boats.

The turn onto the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Kings Norton Junction was a bit of a tight turn but we negotiated it without hitting anything but looking at the condition of bridge 72 there are plenty of boats that don’t succeed without removing a bit of paintwork. Dare I say hire boats? A short run through some of Birmingham’s industrial history and we arrived at Bournville where due to shortage of moorings we are now breasted up against Uccello.

Bournville 010 No signs of mooring ropes anywhere and just enough room to pass.

As it’s half term break for the schools the Cadbury’s World Tour is fully booked out for day’s, even weeks. Carrie has managed to obtain the last tickets for tomorrow’s 9am tour for herself and Grandson. Dot searched the website of Cadbury’s and found that despite being told that they don’t have Concession tickets for OAP’s they in fact do. So we decided to see if we could fluke some tickets and came up with 2 on the Tuesday 9am tour so we will be staying here until then.

Bournville 025Guillotine Stop Lock.  There is one of these on the other side of the bridge too and it’s a tight fit.

2102 locks, 4097.30 miles, 78 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 57 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Hockley Heath 002 Our overnight mooring across the arm at Hockley Heath.

Full steam ahead.

19 Locks, 2.91 Miles, 2 Lift bridges. Now moored at Hockley Heath.

Lapworth 002Typical Stratford Canal lock cottage.

It was an early start for all concerned this morning, well earlier than what we have got into the habit of lately. A short reverse back to the Kingswood Junction where we turned back towards the Stratford Canal and the Lapworth flight. We did the first 2 locks and then pulled in for water where Derek and Carrie caught up with us. Once full we headed off while they filled their water tank.

Lapworth 003Lapworth Junction. Lock 20 on the left to the Grand Union. Lock 21 on the right to Stratford. Lapworth 006 Lock 13 which had been the delaying factor in heading North. Feb 13th and it's back in action.

In the meantime Nb Roman arrived on the scene between us and Uccello. Roman is another Kiwi/Aussie boat owned by Brian and Wendy. Brian originates from Christchurch and Wendy lived in Blenheim as does John and Elizabeth on Nb Helen Louise, what a small world we live in. We had a good system going and were making good time until we reached lock 7 where we encountered a South bound boat. This was a brand new hull heading for the fit out shop and as of yet was not displaying a name. The pound between locks 7 and 8 is small and on a curve so the change over between locks was slow and tricky but we made it.

Lapworth 008A tight cross over between locks 7 & 8 on the North Stratford Canal.Lapworth 009 Cross over completed and we are on our way again.

Arriving at Lapworth top lock we were greeted by the owner of Lapworth Top Lock Cottage.  “I have been waiting for you” she said, reading our blog she had known we were heading that way.  Their boat Nb Nanshe was moored at the bottom of their garden. Nice to meet you sorry we didn't stay longer for a chat. After negotiating lift bridge 28 Uccello and ourselves pulled into Swallow Cruisers for pump out’s and diesel, the latter being 69p per litre and they do self declaration.

Lapworth 013Nb Uccello passing through bridge 28. Even a passerby got in on the act.

One more lift bridge and we reached our destination of Hockley Heath where due to shortage of moorings we were forced to moor outside the pub. That was fine for Uccello but didn’t leave much room for us. Luckily the small arm by the pub, despite being neatly fenced appeared overgrown and un-used  so we moored across it. It’s not the conventional way of doing things but it’s only for 1 night so I don’t think we will be causing anybody any problems.

2102 locks, 4086.34 miles, 77 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 56 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday, 13 February 2010

It’s all go and back to plan “B”

After Dot took a stroll up to lock 13 to see how BW were progressing she has returned with a report that the work has now been completed and the lock had been refilled. The work on lock 19 has already been completed so we can access the North Stratford Canal through lock 20. Yippee!

After consultation with our cruising partners, Derek and Carrie, it‘s been agreed that we will head off tomorrow morning so that we can reach Cadbury’s World by Monday. This will enable them to take their Grandson to get his fill of chocolate. Of course the adult’s will also want their share.

This afternoon another down under couple have moored up behind us. Brian (kiwi from Christchurch) and Wendy from Australia on Nb Roman.  They arrived in November and bought their boat in December.  After chatting for a while with Dot they have decided to follow us up Lapworth Flight tomorrow towards Birmingham instead of heading up the Grand Union Canal and the Knowle Locks.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Fingers Crossed!

Work is progressing well on lock 13 of the Lapworth Flight and apart from a minor repair to some brickwork this afternoon it should be clear by the weekend.  Depending how long the mortar takes to go off the flight might be rewatered tomorrow.  Taking this into consideration we have decided to sit it out here and go up the flight when it reopens.  Apparently there are several boats at the top waiting to descend also.

Kingswood Junction 016 Lock 21 of the Lapworth Flight is here somewhere.

Kingswood Junction 021Lock 13 with new gates and the final clearing up to do.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Ongoing Maintenance

Kingswood Junction 007

Repairing brickwork at the entrance to lock 13 Nth Stratford Canal. This is outside the lock chamber showing both the underwater sluice gate on the right and the upper lock gate(usually below water level).

BW boo boo!

Received from BW this afternoon

“Lock 13, North Stratford
Monday 8 February 2010 - Friday 12 February 2010
Due to excessive leakage through the gates we have taken the opportunity to carry out some repairs while the stoppage season is still in progress.
British Waterways apologises for any inconvenience caused.”

Did we draw their attention to this oversight when we rang them this morning?  But today is Tuesday, should not we be notified before works commence? or at least at the same time.  We are Continuous Cruisers after all.  According to one of our blog readers who walked up the flight last Saturday it was looking very closed then.

Curses, Foiled again.

Kingswood Junction 001 Lock 21 North Stratford Canal undergoing repair. An uncharted pipe as well as the icy weather last month has caused delays.

Despite the stoppage at Locks 19 and 21 we had found that there was still access through lock 20 to the Lapworth flight because the work on lock 19 had not actually been started yet. This morning we were contemplating when to move off, Dot went down to speak to BW at lock 21 who said that they believed lock 13 had an emergency stoppage as well. After phone calls to BW and Dot actually walking up to lock 13 to investigate the situation it turns out that BW are actually catching up with a postponed stoppage from last year. New gates and possibly a new cill plus repairs to the brickwork are what is being done on the lock. This work may be finished by next week but by then the lock 19 repairs may have started so will be of no advantage. BW have not advertised this stoppage but probably due to the fact that the canal was closed at lock 19 and 21 they probably thought it unnecessary.

Kingswood Junction 006Setting up the gantry at Lock 13 North Stratford Canal to fit new gates.

Ah well back to plan “A” which is to carry on up the Grand Union Canal and work out an itinerary from there. In the meantime we have reversed out of the arm leading to the Stratford Canal back on to the Grand Union Canal to get away from the noise of the trains on the bridge crossing the canal. This at least points us in the right direction for Birmingham together with the added advantage that we can now get satellite reception.

Kingswood Junction 010 Lock 13 North Stratford Canal being fitted with new gates.